Now I lay me down to sleep

Assalamu alaykum and welcome.

Many of you may have heard this bedtime prayer before.

“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

It’s a staple of the bedtime routine of many a Christian family. When I learned it as a child I could scarcely understand it’s meaning. I thought “nowilayme” was one word and I had no idea what “ifishoulddie” meant! That’s probably why I didn’t realize what I was talking about for a while. Now it’s quite easy to understand what the meaning of the prayer is. And as a Muslim now, I realize even more how important such a prayer is. It’s quite simple so I won’t spend time explaining it here, I simply want to express my personal understanding of this type of prayer and it’s importance as part of the bedtime routine.

In the Qur’an Allah says what means:

It is He Who takes your souls by night (when you are asleep), and has knowledge of all that you have done by day, then He raises (wakes) you up again that a term appointed (your life period) be fulfilled, then (in the end) unto Him will be your return. Then He will inform you of that which you used to do. (6:60 – Dr.Mohsin translation)

And in another passage He says what means:

It is Allâh Who takes away the souls at the time of their death, and those that die not during their sleep. He keeps those (souls) for which He has ordained death and sends the rest for a term appointed. Verily, in this are signs for a people who think deeply. (39:42 – Dr.Mohsin translation)

Our souls belong to God. He does with them as He wills. Our souls are in His possession by night and it is by His will that they are returned to us each morning. That’s not to say that we die each night. Anyone hooked up to a machine that measure vital signs will prove our bodies continue to function as we sleep. But one cannot live his/her life without a soul. What kind of life are we living when asleep? So our lives continue only if our souls are returned to us.

 

My understanding of this prayer now through the eyes of Islam is that it’s much like the 5 daily prayers. The 5 daily prayers are not prayers asking for something to be given to us (that’s usually done after we have completed the prayer) they are prayers done to remind us of Allah’s glory and our subservience to him. Similarly, the “now I lay me” prayer is not a prayer requesting that God take and keep our souls since He already does that, it’s a prayer that serves as a reminder that this is what He does. A reminder that your final resting place is with Allah. A reminder to start, live, and end each day in worship of Allah.

 

There are many supplications one may make before going to bed to serve as a reminder. And the best part is: these reminders allow one to die upon the firtah if he or she should then die while sleeping.

Al-Bara’ b. ‘Azib reported that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) commanded a person (in these words): When you go to bed during night, you should say: Oh Allaah, I submit my soul unto You, and I entrust my affair unto You, and I turn my face towards You, and I totally rely on You, in hope and fear of You. Verily there is no refuge nor safe haven from You except with You. I believe in Your Book which You have revealed and in Your Prophet whom You have sent.” Make this as the last word of yours (when you go to sleep) and in case you die during that night, you would die upon Fitra. (Muslim; Book 35; Hadith 6544)

No Four Letter Words

Assalamu alaykum my Muslim sisters and brothers; Welcome to all non-Muslims

 

I would just like to quickly note, while I should have been perfecting what I want to say over the past few days I was instead spending time with my husband who had been away for a month. So please pardon me for being a little incomplete in my thoughts today.

 

I have a few goals in mind for improving myself as a Muslim which I will be sharing soon. But first I’d like to talk about a few things I already do in my everyday life that I see as part of my striving to be a good Muslimah. And trust me, I do have to strive for these things sometimes because they aren’t always easy to do, either for personal reason or simply because of the environment I am in. Anyway, our first topic: Swearing! I bring this up first because I want to make it clear here and now that cursing and swearing will not be tolerated here.

 

Growing up my mother would not allow any sort of obscenities to be spoken in the house. At it’s most extreme, when my sister and I were quite young we didn’t even talk about heaven and hell in the house. We talked about heaven and heck. Or heaven and “the other place.” That passed as we grew a bit older but the big ones you still can’t say on TV were still out of the question as well as damning anything or using hell out of context. We still weren’t allowed to say anything “sucked” unless we were talking about the vacuum cleaner and the words “this sucks” was followed by “up dirt really well.” Even some of the swearing alternatives were not allowed. “Crap” was still considered too vulgar but “crud” was acceptable. “Friggin’” or “fricken” (or however one might spell it) though not strictly forbidden was strongly disliked. “Freaking” could be used instead but still preferable only to refer to “freaking out.”

 

My point being I was raised not to use curse words. Being raised this way it was pretty much inevitable I went through a stage where I learned just about every swear there was and used them as often as I could out of a misplaced sense of maturity. This was roughly around 5th grade (about 11 years old.) Some time in middle school (junior high school – around 13 or 14 years old) I grew weary of the senseless use of these words and started being more sparing with them. Somewhere along the line I became disenchanted with them all together and gradually tried to drop them out of my vocabulary. Nowadays, I do my best not to say any vulgar words but in rare moments I have dropped an inappropriate “damn” and in a rather embarrassing incident a rather passionate “son of a bitch.”

 

In the Quran Allah says what  means: “Tell My servants that they should speak that which is best. Surely, Satan creates discord among them. Indeed, Satan is an open enemy to mankind.” (17:53 – Mufti Taqi Usmani traslation) And the prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The Muslim does not slander, curse, speak obscenely or speak rudely.” (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, who said, this is a ghareeb hasan hadeeth; it was classed as saheeh by al-Albaani). So not swearing is largely a personal struggle and a goal one should try to achieve. We should strive to say only what is good and avoid speech which may cause harm. It could even be said the struggle not to swear is also part of jihad al-Shaytaan (which I’ll insha Allah discuss more next week.) It is difficult, however, to avoid bad talk here in the US. It’s just so commonplace and those who try to avoid swearing are often made fun of as “prudish” and “old fashioned.”

 

But despite these challenges I try my best to speak only beautiful words and not curse anything or anyone who does not deserve it. For the most part if I find myself about to swear I will try to not even let out the first sound of the curse word and just say very, very random words or garbled nonsense. Generally I find it very easy to say what I need to say without curse words, even if I’m very angry. While I do my best not to say these words, I still think these words in my head and that is my biggest challenge. Those words are still there, looming, tempting me to use them, making every day a challenge to continue speaking only that which is best. Insha Allah my struggle does not go unnoticed.

What about JIHAD?!?!

Assalamu alaykum to all my Muslim sisters and brothers; Welcome to all non-Muslims!

 

Well here I have this provocative title for my blog and yet have said barely a word on Jihad. Let’s get to it then. What is jihad? What does it mean? Perhaps a quick Google search could shed some light on this topic?

 

The first result when searching “jihad” is a Wikipedia entry (of course.) While it does provide some general information there’s no real depth to it. Next in the results is Jihad Watch. Yikes!…. Then we have Daniel Pipes…. oh dear….. Then a very brief definition form Merriam-Webster. FINALLY, the fifth result has a somewhat of an actual answer from About.com’s section on Islam, not just glossing over the fact there are non-violent jihads like the Wikipedia article does but actually explaining it a little bit. But this is just anecdotal.

 

There are many many articles and even entire books on the subject and I’m not about to make any breakthroughs here. As you may have noticed I have been giving information in chunks. It’s not that I can’t see the forest through the trees. It’s more that I know which forest I’m in so I’m taking my time to look at all the trees. So I’ll be taking my time to analyze and define the term over the course of many entries. And let’s not forget I’m not specifically here to define Jihad. This is my jihad after all and while part of that jihad is to define jihad in the first place, this is largely chronicling my struggle to better myself as a Muslim. So, let’s start with that definition; the definition of the personal jihad.

 

I’m using excerpts from this fatwa from Islam Q&A for my definition this time. Feel free to click the link and read the full fatwa on your own. I’ll be returning to it later as well as researching other sources and presenting them at later dates, as the opportunities present themselves.

Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: Once this is understood, then jihad is of four kinds: Jihad al-nafs (jihad against one’s self), jihad al-Shaytaan (jihad against the Shaytaan), jihad against the kaafirs and jihad against the hypocrites.

He goes on to say

Jihad al-nafs (jihad against one’s self) is of four kinds: 1 – Striving to learn the teachings of Islam… 2 – Striving to make oneself act in accordance with what one has learned… 3 – Striving to call others to Islam; teaching those who do not know about it… 4 – Striving to bear patiently the difficulties involved in calling people to Allaah and the insults of people; bearing all that for the sake of Allaah.

Interestingly enough, in what seems to be an unavoidable meta way, my studying about jihad is actually part of my jihad!

 

With that, here is what you can expect from me for this part of my jihad. I’ll be posting what I’m learning about Islam. I’ll also set goals for myself which I’ll be more likely to strive to accomplish knowing others are watching me. While I should strive to accomplish these goal knowing Allah is watching me, this is a weakness in me. I know Allah is watching me but it’s not enough to motivate me to action sometimes. It’s not at all that I want to do these things simply to be seen by others. I want to do things only to please Allah and sometimes that means I need other people keeping an eye on me. I’ll also post about how I’m trying to apply what I learn to my everyday life. I’m going to strive to remember Allah in all my actions. Hopefully posting what I learn will help me with my dawah efforts in the community and perhaps be good dawah for anyone who may stumble on this blog. I may also post about those dawah efforts or any difficulties I face from others (though I have suffered very little injustice so far, alhamdulillah.)

 

But this is just me talking about what I’m going to do. Starting tomorrow insha Allah (or the day after tomorrow, I may have to skip the update tomorrow) you’ll finally see my jihad in action over the next several days!

How to read what I write

Assalamu alaykum to all my Muslim sisters and brothers; Welcome to all non-Muslims.

 

I’ve never been a good writer. This was one of the reasons I hesitated for a long time about starting this blog. I did have a blog in the past but I never used it as a means of improving my writing. My biggest hurdle is conveying tone. I usually resort to using emoticons or explain my tone in parentheses. Somehow my writing style has evolved to somewhat resemble my talking style. Tangents, asides, and occasional run-on sentences abound. And if you’ve noticed my use of the 2nd person you’ll know I like to “talk” to my reader.

 

One of the reason I speak and write the way I do is because I have had a lot of interaction with the international community. I will not speak or write with contractions sometimes. I also sometimes speak and write in short sentences. Conversely, when I speak with native English speakers I don’t shy away as much from things like complex sentences or perceived “SAT” and high-brow words… like conversely, for example.

 

If you caught any of the subtlety of that last paragraph that’s the other thing about my writing tone and style. Some people have accused my writing of being preachy and pretentious, and even stilted and condescending. Perhaps one reason it may come across this way is because I’m generous enough to assume my readers are intelligent. It’s only after an indication I have spoken above the level of the listener that I “dumb things down” to the level of their comprehension. Perhaps this developed a bit more in my tech support day when I had to explain to people who didn’t know how to use their mobile phones how to use their mobile phones. I spoke with kindness, not with arrogance or annoyance, and I tried oh so hard to find and use the best layman’s terms. I don’t talk with a preachy or condescending tone so neither does my writing contain these characteristics.

 

I’m also a very good humored person. I like to make jokes just like just about everybody else. I try to stay away from stuff that’s really low brow but it’s not like all my jokes have to be high brow. I just like to play around with words a lot, I like tongue-in-cheek humor, subtlety, dry humor, and I do dabble in sarcasm. So read my posts knowing that I’m a human being with a sense of humor. That doesn’t mean everything I write is supposed to be funny, it just means don’t read as if I’m being dead-serious all the time. Just imagine the voice in your head as you read to be that of a young 20-something woman speaking with sincerity and kindness.

 

Who I was before I was a Muslim

Assalamu alaykum to all my Muslim sisters and brothers; Welcome to all non-Muslims

No, this isn’t going to be a post delving deeply into my past. I just want to make clear some personality traits I had long before I reverted to Islam. This way no one can accuse me of being brainwashed or indoctrinated into acting this way. (Also, don’t be surprised if this post changes a bit over the next couple of days (though it’s not like I have all that many readers to worry about noticing the changes) I want to keep up with my planned “one post every day for a while” but I don’t know if I’m quite satisfied with what I have written. Maybe some would argue quality over quantity but I have a brain-full of ideas I want to get out!)

First off, I like to cook. This is a personality trait you’ll find in many women and men regardless of religion. So don’t go thinking I cook simply as my duty as wife. I like doing it anyway.

Next, I have wanted kids for a LONG time. Probably since I was at least 14 I knew I wanted to have a big family. So any of my ramblings on family planning and related topics are because I WANT A FAMILY not because I’m being forced to be a “baby factory.” Similarly, long before I was Muslim I was quite alright with the idea of being a housewife/SAHM (stay at home mom.) In fact, I had always hoped I would be able to be this, even with a feminist mother teaching me that I can do anything I wanted. It was hard to convince her that what I really and truly wanted to do was be a wife and mother. Also, I like taking care of people. Growing up, almost all of my friends always said I was very “motherly” and the best caretaker among us. So it really and truly is just in my nature to be that way.

I’ve also always been very averse to conflict. I’ve always been willing to compromise for the sake of harmony. Maybe it’s all my years of work in customer service related jobs. Maybe part of it sprung from the shouting matches in my house growing up. Now, it was by no means a constant thing. It wasn’t even a frequent thing. But from time to time arguments would arise, passions would flare, and decibel levels would rise. My mother and father would argue sometimes; my brother and mother have raised their voices to each other; and oh boy did my sister not get along with our mother sometimes. And I’m sure I raised my voice a few times too, especially in my teenage years. But through this I grew very keen on “keeping peace” by searching for a middle ground or simply agreeing and shutting myself up to end things. Haven’t you ever been in an argument and had “one more thing” you really wanted to say but you just kept it to yourself instead so as not to escalate the situation? Often times the argument can be readdressed later when tempers have cooled. It’s also a learning experience of finding out how best to address (or at least not address) a sensitive topic without rubbing people the wrong way. I’ve even “won” a handful of arguments by allowing the other person to “win” first.

And finally, I have always believed in God and wanted a close relationship with Him.

These are personality traits I developed before I even started to study Islam. Some of these traits may have been enhance or honed by Islam and maybe even having some of these traits are what drew me Islam. I just want to make it clear I have not been religiously indoctrinated to think and feel certain ways.

A little about myself

Assalamu alaykum to all my Muslim sisters and brothers; Welcome to all non-Muslim readers.

 

You will never know the intimate details of my life. Hijab is not just a piece of cloth I wear on my head. Some topics I touch on here will be talked about in detail later but for the most part this is information I would be okay telling any person I’ve just met. The main point, I suppose, is not to give a general idea of “who I am” but to tell “where I come from.” The background information is to help show how I became the person I am today and I hope that helps makes sense of future things I may say.

 

I am a revert from a Christian family and I’m American. Often people mistake me for Turkish or occasionally Egyptian because I wear hijab. When I respond that I’m American they ask where my parents are from. Once it’s established they’re American too it’s only then they realize I’m an American revert. To date, I’ve only had TWO people ask me right away if I was a revert after hearing me speak in clean American English. Not that I mind this at all. My best guess would be that the majority of American Muslims – not Muslims living in America – are first generation Americans of immigrant parents. You have to go back about 4 generations in my family before meeting an immigrant from Germany.

 

I reverted in November 2010. In Japan. I was in Japan teaching English, as the vast majority of Americans do in Japan. This was my second time in Japan, the first time being as an exchange student in the ’07/’08 school year. I studied Japanese in college and have my bachelors in Japanese language (with a minor in intercultural studies – which was offered as a major the year AFTER I graduated! Grrr… could’ve double majored, rawr….)

 

I met the man who is now my husband in 2009, several months before I left for Japan. As our relationship developed and it seemed likely we would marry, I began to wonder what the expectations in marriage would be and so I started to study Islam in depth. So while it can be said my husband was the reason I started to study Islam, he is not the reason I reverted. I came to Islam of my own volition, not as a means to get married (since, as a Christian woman, my reversion wouldn’t have been necessary anyway.)

 

I returned to the US in February 2011 to be married in March 2011. We have been happily married ever since and hope to have children within the next year. I currently work part time in retail in addition to performing my duties at home and occasionally volunteering at the local Islamic school. I am eagerly anticipating when I can go back to being a housewife so I have more time and energy for studying, raising a family, and more time at the Masjid (where the school is.)

 

As I said, I’ll be expanding on many of these talking points later, and I promise a lot of this does actually tie in with the whole “my jihaad” thing. But all in good time 🙂 I will try my best to post once a day for a while so as to get things moving before I possibly slow down a bit.

What is “My Jihaad”

Assalamu Alaykum to my Muslim sisters and brothers; Welcome to all non-Muslims readers.

 

This is only my first post so I’ll try to keep things brief. I won’t spend a lot of time trying to discuss the messy details of what jihad is or isn’t (that’ll be discussed over the course of many many other blog entries!) I will simply explain why this blog is “My Jihad” and my intentions with this blog.

 

First, a very little bit about jihad. Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: “jihad is of four kinds: Jihad al-nafs (jihad against one’s self), jihad al-Shaytaan (jihad against the Shaytaan), jihad against the kaafirs and jihad against the hypocrites.” From the sunnah of Abu Dawud: “Narrated Anas ibn Malik:The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: Use your property, your persons, and your tongues in striving against the polytheists.” (book 14, hadith 2498)

 

Yes, part of what jihad means involves fighting. However, I am a woman and the fighting is not for the women except in certain cases when it becomes necessary (which will be discussed later.) I am also not in a situation where there is fighting so I strive for religion to be only for Allah through the dawah of this blog. Through this blog I mainly will share my struggle, my jihad, against my self and against Shaytaan. Not every post is going to be religiously over-toned either. You may often find me regaling you with tales of my everyday life as I strive to be a better Muslimah. And through these posts I hope to also strive against the kaafirs, hypocrites, and polytheists by means of my “tongue” (or writing, rather.)

 

I may play around with the templates a bit in the beginning and I don’t have a definitive “plan” with this blog just yet either. There will be a handful of posts about jihad of course, though (like many other Muslim blogs) I’ll likely post on other topics from time to time, as well as share articles, lectures, and fatawa of interest. However this will largely be a chronicle of my own personal growth and my own personal jihad. So join me in “My Jihad” and see how this Muslimah strives for the sake of Allah.